How Long Should an Executive Summary Be in a Report?
What is the length of an executive summary? The executive summary of a business plan is that part of the business plan document that appears at the beginning, and which provides readers with a brief overview of the entire business plan document.
This part of the business plan is usually written with the mind that the reader does not have the time to read the entire document, hence it must contain the entire information in the business plan document while still being kept concise as best as possible. This now begs the question; how long should an executive summary be?
This article will give an answer to this question; as well as provide you with other essential things you must know about the executive summary.
So how long should an executive summary be for a 10-20 page report?
Things Which Must be in a Business Plan
What is supposed to be in an executive summary? Before we delve into how long a business plan should be, let us first consider the essential things that must be present in the executive summary of a business plan. There are major things that must have to be in your executive summary, and they include:
- Who You Are
Who you are, your business name, location, and your business contact information must be well embedded within the executive summary of your business plan.
- Your Business Offering and the Problem It Solves
This includes a very concise description of your business offering (products and/or services) as well as why it is necessary.
- Your Target Market
You may have to include the target market of your business if the products and services you offer do not already define it.
- Indicate the Intent of the Business Plan Document
Do you plan on using the business plan to secure a loan from the bank, or do you intend to attract investors with it? Whatever your intent is for writing the business plan, you should state it. In the actual sense, you do not need a business plan executive summary if you do not plan on securing a loan from the bank or attracting investors with it. You do not need to write an executive summary of a business plan that is not going to be read by others.
How Long Should the Executive Summary Be?
What should be included in an executive summary? Most writers begin by determining the length of the executive summary of the business plan document. Some would write it short (usually not more than a single page) and quickly scurry off. Other writers would keep it between one and three pages.
However, this is not the way to go. The way to go as regards the length of an executive summary of a business plan is to keep the pages not more than 10% of the total number of pages of the main document. This means your executive summary should not exceed ten (10) pages in total while ensuring it contains the essential parts of the main documents. This calculation can be adapted when looking at how long an executive summary is for a 35-page report or lower.
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Writing the Executive Summary of Your Business Plan
Having known how long the executive summary should be, it is important we get down to some of the mistakes you should avoid when writing the executive summary of your business plan document.
- You should avoid providing too much background information and detail in the executive summary. Know exactly where the background information is supposed to be —in the background section or in the introduction part. The details belong to the main body of the document you have written.
- Make sure your executive summary does not contain terms that are not found in the other parts of the documents.
- You should avoid having a mismatch in the entire content. That is, what is present in the executive summary must be present in the detailed sections, and whatever major points covered in the main document must be present in the executive summary too.
- You should avoid including too much or too little information in the executive summary. As mentioned earlier, your executive summary should be of the appropriate length. It should be long enough to contain all of the necessary points carried by the main document but short enough to still be called a summary.
- You should avoid repeating the content of the executive summary word for word as contained in the main document. You should avoid simply cutting and pasting parts of the main document into the executive summary; rather, information should be paraphrased from the main document.
How do you end an executive summary?
In conclusion, when writing your executive summary, you must make sure to write it last, since it is a summary of the main document, even though it appears at the beginning of the document. Ensure you are clear, precise and concise too.
After writing your executive summary, make sure to go over it again; preferably, allow someone else to go over it. Ask them to read it out loud. Pay attention as they read, and check if the flow is there, and if there is any ambiguity. Ensure the executive summary makes sense when it stands alone as a separate document.
Finally, when writing the executive summary of your business plan, make sure to use a strong, active and positive language. You do not want to weaken the effect your executive summary will have on its audience by using imprecise and passive language.
The executive summary should be given an equal attention as much as the other parts of the business plan. It should be convincing enough to its audience as a separate document.
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